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Poster: Fact_Checker Date: Aug 18, 2009 3:20pm
Forum: feature_films Subject: Star Trek first-season copyright notices

Video-Cellar wrote: "... the first season episode[s] which were all broadcast without copyright notices. A number of video companies in the 1980s used network prints to master VHS collections of first season episodes like 'The Menagerie Parts 1 & 2' 'The Carbomite Manouvre', etc."

Like Video-Cellar, I understood that the first-season "Star Trek" episodes had been first broadcast without copyright notices. However, an interesting remark comes up in a judge's remarks in a 1981 case where a "Star Trek" episode was copied without authorization. See:

The summary doesn't say that "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield" is a "Star Trek" episode, but I happen to know that it is (and that it was copied by the defendant). The judge's quote concerning a copyright notice on that episode is interesting. According to the judge, there was blank leader separating the final credits from the notice, and the defendant acknowledge this, although the defendant claimed the notice was defective because of the blank leader and the notice not being on the credits.

Okay, I realize that "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield" is a third-season episode and not a first-season episode, but if a copyright notice was present but being missed on a third-season episode, mightn't it have been placed on the leader in first-season episodes as well--where it was missed by viewers? As much as such a placement of the notice may seem wrong, the judge in the 1981 case said about the defendant's argument: "This contention does not have merit. ... The distributor placed the notice in a proper location ... 'Battlefield' is validly copyrighted."

The Code of Federal Regulation for at least the last several years has said that copyright notices cannot be on the leader unless the work is a minute in length or less. Does anyone know if this was the rule in 1981 or 1969?

Video-Cellar also says:

"Having released many of these episodes on VHS themselves, before March 1 1989 and still without notice or registration, Paramount now relies on trademark and patent infringement threats in their C&Ds regarding the first season episodes."

I am going to say straight out that I've never seen the Paramount VHS copies of any "Star Trek" episodes and I don't know whether they have copyright notices on them or not. I'll take Video-Cellar's word for it that the first-season VHS copies don't. I do figure that Paramount didn't release them on VHS until after 1981, because not much was released by major production companies before that. What I have to wonder is: if Paramount knew from the 1981 verdict that their "Star Trek" episodes were being copied without authorization because pd companies didn't see any notices, and if Paramount was just handed a verdict by a judge saying that what saved their copyright was a copyright notice which was printed on the leader or otherwise shows up after some blank leader, and since anyone with half a brain would have to realize that the leader or any notice that flashes onscreen after some leader wouldn't get transferred to video -- what could have been going on in the brains of people at Paramount that made them not re-do the credits to put the copyright notices on the credits, even if it just meant superimposing new notices during the video transfers. As I say, I haven't looked at the VHS versions, but I have to wonder why Paramount didn't heed the wake-up warning they got from past lawsuit(s) before engaging "Star Trek" in direct sales to consumers (since those were unmistakably a publication).

Anyone know anything about this?

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Poster: Video-Cellar Date: Aug 19, 2009 7:43am
Forum: feature_films Subject: Re: Star Trek first-season copyright notices

Later season episodes generally contained a notice within the end credits. I suspect that the leader discussed may be the segment break between the end of the episode and the main closing credits.

The season one prints that I have had access to never included copyright notices in the leader. The below is an example of a season one print (episode 1 The Man Trap) front and end credits up untill the final frame.

I may just be being cynical, but the more I look at the issue of the first season Star Trek episodes, the more it screams of corporate giant versus small company with the giant winning through size and power and not necessarily through logical application of a good legal argument. The courts application of unpublished work status to the first season episodes on the basis of the system of syndication distribution seems somewhat misguided. There must have been no way for the defendents to demonstrate the vast number of prints and tapes that were never collected from the syndication and affiliate networks or sold on by the studio to collectors. The problem of being able to demonstrate first sale has been a major issue for film collectors for a long time.

As far as I know, the rules about placement of the notice (after the beginning, before the end, with the title or in the credits) were in place in 1981.

This post was modified by Video-Cellar on 2009-08-19 14:03:07

This post was modified by Video-Cellar on 2009-08-19 14:43:52